Among the many eyebrow-raising moments of President Donald J. Trump’s extraordinary press conference Thursday was Trump’s request to a black reporter that she set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.
White House correspondent April D. Ryan asked President Trump about his plans to address problems in the nation’s cities, and when she followed up to ask whether those plans included working with the Congressional Black Caucus, he asked her if she would set up the meeting.
“Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus?” Ryan asked after he said he’d look “very hard” at education, health care, and other plans.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said, interrupting her. “Do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?”
“No no no, I’m just a reporter,” Ryan said.
“Are they friends of yours?” Trump asked. “Set up the meeting.”
The Congressional Black Caucus is a bipartisan group of African American House and Senate members.
The organization posted a tweet shortly after the press conference indicating a letter was sent to Trump just before his inauguration.
“But you never wrote us back. Sad!” the tweet said.
Ryan also tweeted after the press conference ended, thanking the president for answering her questions but stating that she was a journalist “not a convener.”
I am a journalist not a convener! But thank you for answering my questions. https://t.co/fe9cGXG46w— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) February 16, 2017
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus also expressed bafflement and dismay Thursday after the incident.
Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina said there was ‘‘an element of disrespect’’ in Trump’s comment to Ryan.
‘‘He’s not going to ask any other reporter to do that for any other group, so why did he do that to her? I think that was pretty instructive to me,’’ said Clyburn, a veteran lawmaker and member of the House Democratic leadership.
When asked whether Trump was implying that all black people know each other, Clyburn said, ‘‘I don’t know what his implications were but that’s my interpretation.’’
Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio said Trump should already have been thinking about getting in touch with the caucus.
‘‘We have a rich history, we have some almost 50 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. We’re not new,” Beatty said. “What a president should say is, yes, it’s already on my agenda to talk to them.’’
Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota called Trump’s remarks another ‘‘abuse of protocol.’’
‘‘Donald Trump knows how to call Cedric Richmond, our chair, and that is what he should do. And then we’ll (the CBC) sit together and see if it’s in our interest’’ to meet with Trump, Ellison said.